THE TRAGIC CAREER
JtfARY TODD jCINCOLN
Dr. Charles Stoltz
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
the Class of 1901
HARLAN HOYT HORNER
HENRIETTA CALHOUN HORNER
Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2012 with funding from
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
The Tragic Career
^Jvlary Todd Jjncoln
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THE TRAGIC CAREER
^MARY TODD LINCOLN
T)r. Charles Stoltz
The 'Rgund Table
South ^Bend, Indiana
As the writer of this paper died
between the date of its delivery and
that of its publication, it has been
thought proper to depart from the
usual form in which Round Table
papers are published, and to in-
clude a picture and short appreci-
ation of the author.
'Born, January 17, 1864
T)ied, August 5, 1931
Charles Stoltz was a native of this county. His an-
cestors, while of German origin, came from Alsace-Lor-
raine and for a time lived in France. All of Dr. Stoltz's
sympathies and traditions were French, and something of
his Gallic background was noticeable in his mannerisms
Essentially, he was typical American, with inherent love
of freedom, independence, with a fine flair for discriminat-
ing justice, and an unfailing sense of humor.
His lifes story is almost a duplication of that of most
of the successful men of his generation. He had to ma\e
his way by his own efforts. He was teacher and principal
in the public schools, attended Valparaiso University two
years, Indiana University one year, where he became the
lifelong friend of David Starr Jordan, then through the
College of Physicians and Surgeons of Chicago. All this
education accomplished by unceasing labor and privation.
Dr. Stoltz had a natural and strongly developed interest
in science and advocated the study of pure science regard-
less of its immediate practical value. His next strongest in-
terest was history. He acquired a vast store of historical
\nowledge and, owing to his remar\able memory, this
\now ledge remained immediately available until his death.
He devoted much time to the history of Indiana, and if a
question arose as, for instance, why South Bend came to
be in Indiana instead of Michigan, where its site was
originally located, Dr. Stoltz could furnish carefully com'
In larger matters his historical \now ledge was as broad
Few men were better informed on the life and charac
ter of Lincoln and he possessed one of the finest Lincoln
libraries in the West.
His research in this field led him to spend his final days,
at a time when his sight had all but gone, in preparing the
paper which follows, for he had come to believe that Mary
Todd Lincoln had been greatly misunderstood and
Dr. Stoltz in appearance and character was an unique
personality. He had in mar\ed degree the main elements of
greatness, — courage, simplicity, and sincerity. His sixty
seven years were filled with hard wor\, high thin\ing, and
\indly and helpful interest in his fellow man.
U. G. Manning.
It was the intention of the au-
thor to accredit various writers
with the quotations and items of
fact which he used from their
wor\s to substantiate his thesis
which emphasizes the fine culture
and education in the early life of
both Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln.
These individual acknowledg-
ments were made impossible by
reason of his untimely death.
The publishers desire to ma\e
this \nown to those readers who
are interested in the treatment of
this subject, and to those writers
to whom these courtesies are due.
f( I am a man, and everything
human interests me. "
<^^>3 <nS?S^ 6<2?5i3 e^XiS ■
■ <,■ ■,;■■ .,,..,.., ..... .... ,.,..,. ...... .,.,
"Lady of Lincoln,
They wreathed her head
With thorns when living,
With nettles though dead."
Marion Mills Miller
* * *
"The world will never \now the full extent of its in'
debtedness to Mary Todd Lincoln for what Abraham Lin-
coln was, and for what he was permitted to accomplish."
* * * Ervin Chapin.
"I wish my readers could have \nown this woman as
it was my good fortune to \now her in the prime of her
life, and could understand her devoted ambition for, and
the inspiration she was to Abraham Lincoln in all the days
of their Springfield literary, financial, and political strug'
les." Henry S. Rankin.
* * *
"It may have been that gentle Ann Rutledge, or portly,
complacent Mary Owens, or youthful, light-hearted Sarah
Ric\ard, could have endowed the tall Sycamore of the
Sangamon with richer measure of marital bliss, but never
did a young wife bring to a husband, interested in state-
craft and anxious for preferment, such a wealth of first-
hand information on a grave, moral and political asso-
ciation with great men of her day, as did Mary Todd to
Abraham Lincoln." ._ . TT _
William n. Townsend.
The Tragic Career
^JViary Todd Xjncoln
A century has elapsed since the youthful
Abraham Lincoln entered politics. It was
in the early spring of 1832. He had just attained
the age of twenty 'three. He had been in his newly
adopted state barely two years when he aspired to
become a member of its legislature, expressing his
ambition in that perfectly written epistle ending
naively, — "If the voters elect me they will have
conferred a favor upon me for which I shall be un-
remitting in my labors to compensate. But if the
good people in their wisdom should see fit to
keep me in the background, I have been too
familiar with disappointments to be very much
The Black Hawk War interrupted his election-
eering. He enlisted and was elected captain of
his company. The Indian uprising proved a wide-
spread scare, but hardly bloody.
Chief Black Hawk was captured in Wisconsin,
marched off to Washington in irons — had a long
16 The Tragic Career of
satisfactory powwow with the Great Father, An-
drew Jackson, and lived warless "ever after."
Captain Lincoln walked home. Not only had his
horse been stolen, but on account of his absence
from the hustings, he suffered defeat for the legis-
Thus his public career began with war and was
destined to end with war — for, twenty-nine years
later he was himself to become the Great Father at
Washington, and journeyed from his Illinois home
fettered, indeed, not like the vanquished Black
Hawk, with iron chains and manacles but by trea-
son, calumny, intrigue and suspicion.
The decade which followed Captain Lincoln's
attempt at politics was not without results. It
embodied flat-boating, store-keeping, debts, sur-
veying, postmaster, the law, politics, four terms
in the legislature, several love affairs of varying
intensity, and finally matrimony.
For the background of his achievements of the
first decade in Illinois, we must go back to his last
decade in Indiana, for, all in all, Lincoln was a
The phenomenal thing about Lincoln was his
constant intellectual growth. His was an untiring
quest of knowledge for the sake of knowledge,
and that quest, which became so useful in later
years, originated in early Indiana.
No biographer from Herndon to Beveridge
Mary Todd Lincoln 17
ever knew enough about early Indiana History to
write an adequate biography of the adolescent
Abraham Lincoln. We must not take the sarcas-
tic Baynard R. Hall's "New Purchase" nor Ed-
ward Eggleston's humorous "Hoosier School Mas-
ter" nor yet James Whitcomb Riley's amusing
dialect as indicative of the intelligence of primi-
tive Indiana. The decade preceding Lincoln's re-
moval to Illinois was remarkable for its growth
I pray your indulgence for the time I am con-
suming in picturing early Indiana and rebuilding
the elements of Lincoln's youthful environment.
It is these early days, of our state and our great
president which our historians have so grievously
distorted. Unfortunately, these distortions have
become the accepted conceptions. Their incon-
sistencies are apparent. No woman of the culture
and refinement of Mary Todd could have been
drawn to the shallow uncouth Lincoln of the glib,
pot-boiler, Emil Ludwig; nor to the unwashed
ignoramus of Edgar Lee Masters, nor yet to the
Lincoln of Beveridge's diatribes.
When Indiana was admitted as a state there
were only thirteen organised counties all adjacent
to the Ohio and Wabash Rivers. The Indian vil-
lage, Kekiongay, on the Maumee, had long ago
become the enterprising town of Fort Wayne, but
it was still isolated in unorganized territory.
18 The Tragic Career of
The Ohio River was a great highway of com-
merce but even more so a great highway of intelli-
gence and intellectual enterprise.
Much of Lincoln's youth was spent on this
river. Up and down this stream traveled many of
the great minds of the world: Aaron Burr, Blen-
nerhasset, Constantine Raffinesque, the eccentric
naturalist, Audubon, the ornithologist, Daniel
Drake, renowned Cincinnati physician and nat-
uralist, O. M. Mitchell, pioneer astronomer west
of the Alleghanies, Lafayette, when he visited
America in 1824, Sir Charles Lyell, Harriet Mar
tineau, De Tocqueville and others.
The ubiquitous Johnny Appleseed, whose body
lies buried in Fort Wayne, was planting his or-
chards along the Ohio, from the Muskingum to
the Wabash. The population was still too sparse
for the fragrance of his apple blossoms to reach
from settlement to settlement. However, the ec-
centric but welcome Swedenborgian itinerant
filled in the gap by his seasonal presence, carrying
news and personal messages, thus making the
Southern Indiana world a kin.
In 1826, Robert Owen brought his "boat load
of knowledge' ' down the Ohio and up the Wabash
to New Harmony, which became the scientific out-
post of the west. To New Harmony came nota-
bles from all over the civilised world to confer
with these eminent scholars: Thomas Say, father
Mary Todd Lincoln 19
of American zoology, Maclure, the naturalist, Jo'
seph Neef, disciple of Pestalossi, Gerard Troost,
earliest American mineralogist, and the rest.
Notable among these visitors were Joseph War'
ren, social philosopher, the Duke of Saxe'Weimar,
Sir Charles Lyell, the eminent English geologist,
Harriet Martineau and Basil Hall, English travel'
ers and commentators, and Maximillian, Prince of
Wied, who spent an entire winter in New Har
mony. He wrote a description of his travels and a
commentary on the mammals of North America.
In later years he published a synopsis of this latter
work, a copy of which is in the possession of our
learned fellow member, Dr. Marcus Lyon.
Here also came De Tocqueville, the philosophic
Frenchman who wrote his observations in that
most searching analysis of our institutions —
"Democracy in America."
"New Harmony became the headquarters of
the United States Geological Survey, with one of
its own students, David Dale Owen, son of Robert
Owen, in charge. New Harmony was the site of
a museum containing the remarkable collections of
Say and Maclure, and of a scientific library unex-
celled on the continent/''
Here was published the New Harmony Gazette
which Lincoln read carefully as he also did the
Vincennes Sun and the Louisville Journal.
"It was in certain of the New Harmony commu"
20 The Tragic Career of
nities that women were first given a voice and vote
in local legislative assemblages, and there the doc
trine of equal political rights for all, without re'
gard to sex or color, was first proclaimed by
Frances Wright/ ' It is suggestive of Lincoln's
Hoosier education that he made Frances Wright's
declarations in the New Harmony Gazette, part
and parcel of his first political platform referred
to at the beginning of this paper.
Fourteen miles west from Lincoln's home lived
Ratliffe Boone, second governor of Indiana and
later U. S. congressman for many terms, who was
known to the Lincolns in Kentucky days. His
library was open to young Lincoln.
Fourteen miles south on the Ohio River was
Rockport, the county seat of Spencer County,
where Lincoln attended court. Here he cultivated
the friendship of Judge John Pitcher, whose well
selected library was also open to the youthful
Lincoln was too shrewd a politician to air his
early educational advantages, for frontier voters
did not take kindly to candidates for office who
lauded their own accomplishments. However,
when he once confided to Leonard Swett that,
back in Indiana, he had read every book he could
get his hands on within a radius of fifty miles, he
let slip a clue that his biographers should not have
Mary Todd Lincoln 21
When you shall have read Dr. Louis A. War-
ren's forthcoming work on Lincoln in Indiana,
you will be convinced that books were not so
scarce in early Hoosierdom.
At Rockport, Princeton, and other county
seats Lincoln saw lawyers fight legal battles and
listened to the oratorical emanations of good legal
minds. Particularly was he impressed, as he stated
years afterward, with an address to a jury by
John A. Breckenridge, of Booneville. David Tur-
nam, of Gentry ville, loaned him the Indiana Stat'
utes and other legal tomes which he devoured
Lincoln, when eighteen years old, had acquired
sufficient familiarity with legal procedure to be able
to defend and win a suit against himself in Squire
Pate's court over in Kentucky, across from the
mouth of Anderson's Creek, where he operated a
ferry. After this, at the invitation of Squire Pate,
he frequently crossed the river and attended ses'
sions of his court. On these trips he also busied
himself reading the Kentucky statutes.
When Lincoln was in Indiana there was intense
activity in founding schools and colleges. Vin-
cennes University opened its doors to students in
1816. Indiana University was founded in 1820, —
Hanover College in 1827. The organization of
Asbury, now De Pauw University, was projected
in 1832. The same year Wabash at Crawfords-
22 The Tragic Career of
ville, founded by four pioneer missionaries of the
Presbyterian Church, James Thompson, John
Steele Thompson, Edmund O. Hovey, and James
Carnahan, received students at its beautiful sylvan
The itinerant clergy, some of whom were, or
were to become eminent divines, were no small
part of the intellectual life and educational urge of
Southern Indiana in Lincoln's Hoosier days. Rev.
Henry Little, maternal grandfather of Dr. Edward
H. Griggs, well known lecturer, was a scholarly
Campbellite preacher widely known and of great
The great Methodist Bishop Roberts, after a life
of toil and triumph on the Southern Indiana cir-
cuit, died and was buried in a cornfield. He was
later re-interred in the grounds of De Pauw Uni-
versity, which institution he had been instrumental
Peter Cartwright, who defeated Lincoln in his
first race for office in 1832 and was to be his po-
litical antagonist for a score of years, but who
became one of his strongest defenders during the
Civil War, was not new to the nascent politician
of the Sangamon. This redoubtable Jacksonian
Democrat's circuit riding had for years extended
eastward over the Wabash, into the Lincoln coun-
try in Indiana.
During the Civil War, no one stood higher in
Mary Todd Lincoln 23
the confidence of Abraham Lincoln than Henry
Ward Beecher, Dr. Gurly and Bishop Ames, the
last named, widely conversant with the slave ques-
tion. All these clergymen were from early Indian-
apolis but before this they had been circuit riders
in Southern Indiana, and well known to Lincoln.
Indiana — up to the last decade — has had a long
line of learned and distinguished governors. The
first six of these namely, Jonathan Jennings, Rat'
lifFe Boone, William Hendricks, James Brown
Wray, Noab Noble, whom Beecher designated as
"Noble by name and Noble by nature" and Da-
vid Wallace, father of Lew Wallace, all stumped
Southern Indiana and were models for Lincoln in
his political aspirations.
Among the outstanding stump speakers of In-
diana, inclusive of the governors already men-
tioned, were: Thomas Posey, Christopher Har-
rison, Gen. John Carr, Mark Grume, Dr. John W.
Davis, Oliver H. Smith, Andrew J. Wiley, — as-
tronomer and first President of Indiana University,
Judge Isaac Blackford, Dr. Israel T. Canby, Har-
bin H. Moore, John Tipton, Dan Lynn, Frederick
Rapp and scores of others, too numerous to men-
The enterprising young Lincoln came in con-
tact with all of these and in his official life after-
ward had occasion to refer to their activities. That
he himself had been well known is proved by the
24 The Tragic Career of
fact that when in 1844 he stumped Southern In-
diana for Clay, he was received with acclaim as
an old friend and citizen, and in turn he was able
to recognise and call by name many prominent
persons in his audiences.
The Southwestern Indiana Historical Society,
under the leadership of such enthusiasts as John
Barker, of Booneville, Mrs. Kate Ehrman, of
Rockport, and the venerable, vivacious Judge John
E. Iglehart, of Evansville, is piling up evidence on
evidence that Abraham Lincoln left Indiana a
thoroughly sophisticated and well educated young
I have thus, of necessity, but as briefly as pos-
sible, detailed these few facts about Lincoln's en-
vironment and intellectual development during
his Indiana years from 1816 to 1830, because his
biographers have invariably misrepresented his true
status as a Hoosier and have asserted an incon-
gruity in his marriage to the cultured Mary Todd.
There was nothing phenomenal nor incongruous
about this alliance. It was an intellectual match.
Moreover, there is plenty of evidence that there
was love and devotion from the beginning of their
ardent, though sometimes stormy courtship, to the
very end of their days. Both had Revolutionary
and Indian-fighting ancestors. They were both
supremely intellectual. Both cherished ambitions
and high ideals. Both were deeply versed in poli-
Mary Todd Lincoln 25
tics and statecraft. Both were ardent disciples of
Henry Clay and last, but not least, both were
deeply concerned in the Whig faith, for in those
days people took their religion and their politics
Miss Todd came to Springfield from Lexington,
Kentucky, the Athens of the west — the seat of
Transylvania University, and other renowned edu'
cational institutions. She came to make her home
with her sister, Elisabeth, who, at sixteen years of
age, had married Ninian Edwards when he was a
junior at Transylvania. This young man, a son
of Governor Edwards, when first visited by Mary
Todd at Springfield, had become attorney general
Mary Todd was the daughter of Robert Smith
Todd, a citizen of dignity, probity and honor —
and a man of many and diverse affairs, high in
the counsels of the Whig party in Kentucky. Her
grandfather, Gen. Levi Todd, was the only field
officer at the battle of Blue Licks who was not
killed. Her great/uncle, John Todd, was the first
governor of what later became Illinois, and was
present with George Rogers Clark in 1778 at the
capture of Kaskaskia and Vincennes.
On the side of her mother, Ann Eliza Parker,
her ancestry was scarcely less distinguished. She
traced her descent from Gen. Andrew Porter of
the Revolution. Her great-uncles, George B. Por-
26 The Tragic Career of
ter, territorial Governor of Michigan from 1829
to the time of his death in 1834, James Madison
Porter, Sec'y of Navy under President Tyler, and
David R. Porter, Governor of Pennsylvania, were
all men of note.
Mary Todd's academic career was begun in
Ward's celebrated Preparatory School, and fin'
ished in Madam Mentelle's renowned Academy,
just on the outskirsts of Lexington, opposite Ash'
land, Henry Clay's home. She was a brilliant
pupil and a diligent student. She developed a tal'
ent for languages which was exceptional. She
spoke French fluently and with such purity as to
surprise those who had the native Parisian tongue.
The French classics were her choice reading but
beyond this there was a wide range in her taste. A
writer, who was familiar with the Springfield
home of the Lincolns, has described her as reading
aloud evenings while her husband sat by the hour,
with his chair propped against the wall, his feet
comfortably encased in the large slippers on which
Mary Todd had embroidered the initials "A. L."
Moreoften, however, it was Lincoln who read
aloud while the devoted wife was the listener as
she sat busy with her needle.
Soon after Lincoln's marriage, Robert Smith
Todd made a visit to Springfield. Upon return-
ing home, he declared that he had four daughters
in Springfield, and he was proud to say that each
Mary Todd Lincoln 27
had married a gentleman of culture and distinc-
Mary Todd was a discerning student of men
and affairs. Lexington was the center of slave
activity from its mildest to its worst form, and
there was no phase of the slave question with
which she was not thoroughly familiar. The Todd
residence on Second Street, still standing today,
and the nearby Parker residence, were adjacent to
the notorious Robard's slave pen. At Cheapside,
the court house square of today, were the auction
block and the whipping post which, by the time
Mary Todd left Lexington, were being used with
painful and increasing frequency.
Slavery was the dominating political, social and
moral question. Her father's house was the ren-
dezvous for politicians and statesmen. She knew
them all, — John Hunt Morgan, John C. Brecken-
ridge, Vice-President with James Buchanan and
candidate for President against Lincoln, Cassius
M. Clay, Richard H. Menifee, and many others
who later became prominent in national affairs or
the victims of pro-slavery domination. These were
about her age and were her playmates. A few of
the older group were, Henry Clay, Robert Breck-
enridge, Senator Crittenden, who had been best
man at her father's second marriage, and Samuel
B. Shy, grandfather of our talented Mrs. Violet
Shy Parks, of Mishawaka.
28 The Tragic Career of
When Miss Todd came to Springfield to reside,
the ambitious western capital sat up and took no'
tice. Here was a young woman who could talk
politics and statecraft with the most expert.
When she appeared at social gatherings, she was
usually surrounded by such prominent profession'
al and political characters as Judge David Davis,
Stephen A. Douglas, John A. McClernand, Ly
man Trumball, O. M. Hatch, Simeon Francis,
editor of the Sangamon Journal, Newton Bate'
man, state superintendent of public education, and
her two cousins, Major John T. Stuart and
Stephen T. Logan, successively early law partners
of Abraham Lincoln.
If there were striplings about, politically in'
clined, such as Clark E. Carr, Henry B. Rankin or
Ervin Chapman, they were sure to be drawn into
the charmed circle. For this we may be thankful,
because some of them lived to redeem the good
name and nature of Mrs. Lincoln after the veno'
mous froth and fusillade of words were dissipated.
Biographers have had much to say about the
numerous suitors at the disposal of Miss Todd,
but I have yet to find one who had the temerity
to set out, by name, any of this fancied multitude
except, of course, Stephen A. Douglas and Abra'
For brevity's sake, I shall give you Barton's dis-
posal of the situation. Barton says:
Mary Todd Lincoln 29
"Of her lovers, only two were of importance.
One of them was the gay, brilliant Stephen A.
Douglas, whom she rejected as a lover and re
tained as a friend, and whom she still found use'
ful for an occasional flirtation; and the other was
the tall gaunt Abraham Lincoln. 1 ''
"And she chose Abraham Lincoln.' '
I do not think that there ever was any consid'
erable personal animosity between the Lincolns
and Stephen A. Douglas. Their differences,
though at times intense, were purely political, and
their relations outside of long political opposition
were, at least, not hostile. Lincoln and his wife
in later years always referred respectfully to Doug-
las as Judge Douglas or Senator Douglas, while
one of Douglas's oft repeated pleasantries concern-
ing his tall antagonist was, that — "Of all the
damned Whig rascals about Springfield, Abe Lin-
coln is the ablest and the honestest."
No statesman ever had a more comprehensive
understanding of any major controversy than did
Abraham Lincoln of slavery. In the development
of this profound knowledge, Mrs. Lincoln played
a paramount part. Lincoln's sources of familiarity
with this grave, moral and political question were,
of course, numerous and varied. His childhood
days in Kentucky were tinctured with revulsion
towards the evil system.
By the ordinance of 1787 as well as by the first
30 The Tragic Career of
constitutions of Indiana and Illinois, slavery was
forbidden in these two states of Lincoln's adop-
tion. Yet for decades negroes were actually held
in bondage in these two commonwealths. Slave
litigation was dragging through the courts. Slave-
catching and negro-stealing were exciting the pop-
Travelers from foreign countries, De Tocque-
ville, Lyell, Dickens, Mrs. Martineau and the rest,
were writing about slavery in American period-
icals, many of which found their way to the well
filled reading table of the Lincoln home at Eighth
and Jackson Streets. Lincoln's great Cooper-Union
speech, his masterpiece of logic, was the consum-
mation of years of thought and browsing in the
state library. But of all the sources of knowledge
which Lincoln had at his command, none wrought
so powerful an influence over him as did the little
help-mate who was reared in affluence in the midst
of the accursed system.
Lincoln, before his marriage, had made Joshua
Speed a visit in his Louisville home which may or
may not have colored his view of slavery. How-
ever, after his marriage he made three prolonged
visits with Mrs. Lincoln to Lexington, where
slavery affected him profoundly.
In 1847, Mrs. Lincoln and the children accom-
panied him to her paternal home where he was a
keen observer of the system for weeks before he
Mary Todd Lincoln 31
went on to Washington to take his seat in the
House of Representatives.
Mrs. Lincoln's father died July 16, 1849. It
became incumbent on Lincoln to take part in the
settlement of Mr. Todd's estate, and together the
Lincolns again sojourned in Kentucky for four
weeks. At this time the wildest excitement pre'
vailed over slavery throughout Kentucky. Here
it was the most probable, as Townsend says, that
Lincoln came to the conclusion that interference
with slavery, where it was already established, did
not mitigate its evils nor tend to solidify sentiment
against even gradual emancipation.
In the spring of 1850 the Lincolns again made a
trip to the Blue Grass Capital. They had suf'
fered, what was to them, the first tragedy of their
married life. February 1st their four year old son,
Eddie, died of diphtheria after a two weeks 1 illness.
A few days later came the intelligence that
Mrs. Lincoln's grandmother, the aged Mrs. Eliz,a'
beth R. Parker, had died January 26th.
"Shaken and disconsolate in their first great sor'
row, seeking escape from surroundings that con'
stantly reminded them of their little son, Mary
and her husband took advantage of business in
connection with the settlement of the Parker es'
tate and came back to Lexington several weeks
after Eddie's death."
In all of these visits to Lexington, Lincoln and
32 The Tragic Career of
his wife contemplated the growing evils of slavery.
Strange to say, no writer before Townsend seems
to have noted two of the most vital factors in
Lincoln's conception of slavery. Namely, his own
observation of the evil in a community deeply
steeped in it, and the fixed conclusion of Mrs.
Lincoln, based on her environment and discussion
with eminent statesmen of her day.
Students of Lincoln's life must be deeply indebt-
ed to Mr. Townsend, this young Lexington law-
yer, for writing so vividly and reliably on this
phase of Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln's career.
Mary Todd Lincoln was a born politician. No
other American woman ever had so much to do
with bringing her husband to the highest office in
the gift of the people as did Mrs. Lincoln. From
her childhood to the time she became mistress of
the President's Mansion, "on to the White House"
was ever her slogan and the world has never yet
been told the full story of the persistency, wisdom
and efficiency with which she accomplished her
Katherine Helm, niece of Mrs. Lincoln, has re-
corded in her book, "Mary, Wife of Lincoln," the
girlish prattle of Mary Todd in which she ex-
pressed her ambition to live in the White House.
Galloping out to the Clay Mansion on her re-
cently acquired trick pony one day, this vivacious
youngster brought the gallant Harry of the West,
Mary Todd Lincoln 33
with six eminent statesmen, from his dinner table
to an inspection of the pony's virtues, and in turn
received an invitation from Mrs. Clay to join the
distinguished company at dinner.
"Seated by her hero she was blissfully happy
listening with absorbed interest to the political
discussion which animated the voices and faces of
the diners.' '
"During a lull, she exclaimed suddenly, "Mr.
Clay, my father says you are the best judge of
horse-flesh in Kentucky and I just had to bring
my beautiful pony out for your inspection. My
father bought him of those strolling players who
were stranded here. Don't you think his tricks
"Mr. Clay, my father says you will be the next
President of the United States. I wish I could go
to Washington and live in the White House. I
begged my father to be President but he only
laughed and said he would rather see you there
than to be President himself."
"Well," laughed Mr. Clay, "if I am ever Presi-
dent I shall expect Mary Todd to be one of my
first guests. Will you come?"
"Mary accepted with enthusiasm."
But this was not the route by which she was
to arrive at the White House. For the tall, suave,
compromiser never completed the course. In
later life, she wrought better when she transferred
34 The Tragic Career of
her hopes and energies to the sprightly tallsyca-
more of the Sangamon.
Few have appreciated either the capacity or the
versatility of Mary Todd Lincoln. She was un-
failing in the domestic share of her responsibilities.
She was the frugal wife who reared the children;
who tutored her eldest son for Harvard; who dis-
cussed the events of the day with outstanding
When Lincoln was on the circuit, other lawyers
ran home at week ends. Lincoln stayed out with
Judge Davis. Distances were too great for the
busy corpulent jurist to ride back and forth, so
Lincoln stayed with him, transacting legal business
and fixing up his political fences. These absences
were borne philosophically by Mrs. Lincoln be'
cause Lincoln was making strong political alli-
ances, which later became valuable in his sena-
torial and presidential campaigns. In 1853, when
President Filmore offered Lincoln the governorship
of Oregon Territory, Major Stuart and other
warm political friends advised him to accept. Lin-
coln put it up to Mrs. Lincoln, who promptly
vetoed it. She saw in it a disastrous diversion.
She cherished the friendship of Mr. and Mrs.
Simeon Frances and had access to the editorial
rooms of the Illinois State Journal which privilege
she used on occasion much to Lincoln's advantage.
During the Lincoln-Douglas debates she stayed pa-
Mary Todd Lincoln 35
tiently at home providing rest, comfort and cheer
for her husband when not out on the hustings.
She looked carefully after his health and the con'
servation of his energy throughout this terrific
When Lincoln received the telegram anouncing
his nomination at the Chicago Convention in
1860, he said to his delighted friends, "There is a
little woman down on Eighth St. that will want to
know about this.'" Off he went towards his home
receiving congratulations from other friends along
the way. Before he reached his home, a second
and confirmatory telegram was handed to him by
a messenger boy who had hastened after him.
Joyously he entered his home, where he and
Mrs. Lincoln were alone to rejoice over the news.
This must have been to Mrs. Lincoln the supreme
moment of her life. With the democratic party
hopelessly split, this nomination was tantamount
The days between Lincoln's election and their
journey to the Nation's capital were busy ones for
Mrs. Lincoln as well as for the President-elect.
Lincoln was much of the time closeted with poli'
ticians, campaign managers, and prospective office
seekers. The construction of his cabinet was of
paramount concern. For awhile he received call'
ers in the State House, but finally in order that
he might write his inaugural address, and attend
36 The Tragic Career of
to other urgent matters, Mr. Smith, his brother 'iiv
law, gave him secluded quarters in an upper story
over his place of business.
Mrs. Lincoln, as usual, entertained the numer-
ous visitors, looked after the affairs of the house'
hold, persisted in bringing Lincoln to his meals
regularly and prepared for the party or levee to be
given before they left Springfield.
These bustling days of preparation and farewell
in Springfield; — what a drama of transition they
represent! What a fruitful epoch they closed!
What a momentous epoch they introduced. How
eagerly they must have been passed by Mary Todd
Lincoln, now a brilliant, quixotic woman of forty
three years. How little could she have apprehend'
ed the portent of the journey to Washington, and
the swiftness with which fate was to change her
triumph of fulfillment to the ashes of despair.
High noon, March 4, 1861, the Presidentelect
with the aged Chief Justice Taney and the clerk
of the United States Supreme Court walked slow-
ly to the front of the platform erected at the east
portico of the Capitol for the inaugural ceremo-
nies. In his left hand he held a large, gold headed
cane. Mrs. Lincoln and Senator Douglas were
seated in waiting at the front of the platform.
Taking the manuscript of the inaugural address
from his breast pocket, he laid it with the cane on
a little rickety table. As he glanced about for a
Mary Todd Lincoln 37
more suitable place to put his hat, the short, sturdy-
arm of Stephen A. Douglas reached forward and
relieved him of it. Then while Lincoln delivered
one of the masterpieces of English prose, the "Lit-
tle Giant" sat and listened attentively, nodding
his shaggy head in approval, holding "Old Abe's"
tall, shiny, new hat on his lap all the while.
At last these three resolute hearts throbbed in
unison for a common purpose and that purpose
was to save the Nation.
The ceremonies over, Mary Todd Lincoln went
to the White House. "Her childish dream had
become real," — her ambition of many years was
justified. Douglas went to Lincoln and said:
"Mr. President, what can I do to uphold you in
this momentous crisis?"
Lincoln replied: "Senator Douglas, you are the
idol of the loyal northern Democracy. Go back
home and tell the people what to do. They love
you and have faith in you."
Back to the west went the intrepid Douglas,
entering on a new role likely to be the most useful
of his long brilliant career. Day and night he
spoke for the Union, to immense audiences in
scores of places from Cincinnati to Chicago, where
he made his last impassioned speech in the crowd'
ed Wigwam, the very place in which Lincoln had
been nominated, only a year before. Vilified and
traduced by the slavocracy whom he had done so
38 The Tragic Career of
much to placate, and for whom he had sacrificed
his own great ambition to become President, he
sank exhausted from his patriotic labors and on
June 3rd the White House was draped for him in
In the Executive Mansion, Mary Todd found
herself regarded in the North as an interloper and
in the South as an apostate. She was surrounded
by spies, traducers and snobs. Mrs. Zachariah
Chandler, whose husband had vaulted from De-
troit shop-keeper to the United States Senate,
headed a self-appointed committee to show Mrs.
Lincoln the social way. This was justly but not
tactfully resented, and the Chandlers were hostile
toward the Lincolns ever after.
The capital was dangerously situated in slave-
holding Maryland — Baltimore reeking with seces-
sion, and rebellion. Across the Potomac was Vir-
ginia with her arrogant and belligerent slavocracy.
Men distrusted each other and the city was in
imminent danger of invasion. Treason lurked in
every corner and spies at every keyhole of the gov-
In the Lincoln household it was promptly de-
cided best that in order to relieve Mrs. Lincoln of
irritation from scurrilous letters and to thwart ac-
cusations of disloyalty, all her mail — even her in-
timate personal correspondence, should be opened
for her. To this duty was assigned William O.
Mary Todd Lincoln 39
Stoddard, one of Lincoln's secretaries. All White
House telegrams, of course, came through the
War Office and were there dealt with as thought
Mrs. Lincoln had had a foretaste of coming
tragedies when she was told at Harrisburg of the
plot to assassinate the President-elect at Baltimore
and that he was to be conducted secretly to the
Capitol. She became panic stricken and by her
excitement came very near revealing the Pinker-
ton plan. Lincoln was placed in charge of the
massive Ward Lamon, who was armed to the
teeth with almost every conceivable minor weapon
of attack and defense. Mrs. Lincoln was placed
in charge of Norman B. Judd. Both of these
escorts were lawyer friends of the Lincolns.
Needless to say Judd had the harder task of the
Among Mrs. Lincoln's first heartaches came a
realisation that most of the intimates of her
youth, even her own Kentucky kinsfolk, must
espouse the rebel cause. The rich Blue Grass
country was a hot bed of secession. The vitriolic
Cassius M. Clay and the venerable but forceful
Robert Breckenridge, son of John Breckenridge,
Attorney General in Jefferson's cabinet, were
about the only outstanding belligerents for the
Union cause in Lexington.
The members of the Todd family, resident in
40 The Tragic Career of
Kentucky, though all had been emancipationists,
were now, with but two exceptions, warmly sup-
porting the new Confederacy.
Mrs. Lincoln's oldest brother, Levi, an invalid,
who died before the war ended, was for the Union,
as was also her half sister, Mrs. Margaret Kel-
logg. But her youngest brother, George, and
three half-brothers, Samuel, David, and Alexan-
der, had promptly joined the Rebel Army, while
her half-sisters, Emile Helm, Martha White and
Elodie Dawson, were the wives of Confederate
In April Mrs. Lincoln's youngest sister, Emile
Todd Helm, and her husband, were guests at the
White House. Ben Harden Helm had graduated
at West Point with the Class of '51. His father,
Ex-Governor Helm, was a strong Union man.
The young officer had become a great favorite of
the President. Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln both hoped
to keep him enlisted in the cause of the govern-
ment that had educated him in the science of war.
Lincoln offered his young brother-in-law a com-
mission as Pay Master in the United States Army,
with the rank of Major. In the War Department
is this record: "Helm, Ben Harden, nominated
for Pay Master in the U. S. Army, April 27th,
Helm had had an interview with the traitor-
ous Col. Robert E. Lee — the pampered, Tidewa-
Mary Todd Lincoln 41
ter Virginian. Hence, the word "Declined" in
After the battle of Bull Run, David Todd was
made commandant of a Richmond prison. In con'
sonance with the cruel system of rebel prison man'
agement, his conduct when related north by es'
caped or exchanged prisoners, fed the rumors of
disloyalty against Mrs. Lincoln and brought her
Feb. 20, 1862, their third son, William Wal-
lace Lincoln, age eleven years, died at the White
House after a brief illness. Willie was a youth
of great promise and his death, the second tragedy
of their domestic life, cast deep gloom over both
Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln.
The bloody battle of Shiloh began on Sunday
morning, April 6th, 1862. Grant's army was
surprised, and by night was driven in a huddled
mass to the very banks of the Tennessee. Before
Monday morning, however, came reinforcements.
Lew Wallace's Corps had at last found their way
to Shiloh. The fresh troops of Buell and Nelson
had come by forced marches from Nashville in
time to attack the rebels at daybreak. The Con'
federates were driven back and still further back,
leaving their dead on the field to be buried with
grim and hasty funeral rites by Grant. Among
these dead were Mrs. Lincoln's brother, Sam.
There was exultation for a Union victory but
42 The Tragic Career of
sorrow for the stricken little "Lady of the White
House. " Amid the rejoicings of the entire North,
Mrs. Lincoln must mourn in silent seclusion lest
her traducers find in her sorrow a passion for the
The year 1863 brought to devoted and loyal
Mary Lincoln the fullest measure of physical and
mental suffering. In June Mrs. Lincoln, while
riding with the President to the Soldiers' Home,
was violently thrown from her carriage and severe
ly injured by her head striking a stone. Her re"
covery, at first despaired of, was at best slow and
painful. The President was greatly alarmed and
watched over her tenderly and anxiously.
By mid-summer the Confederacy had reached
its zenith of confidence and arrogance. But after
Gettysburg, July 4th, Lee was in full retreat
southward. On the same natal day, Pemberton
surrendered Vicksburg to Grant. In Lincoln's
words, 'The Father of Waters again flowed un-
vexed to the sea." A minor but significant por-
tion of this grandiose southern strategy was Mor-
gan's raid into Indiana and Ohio. Morgan's three
thousand troopers were scattered and General John
Hunt Morgan, of Lexington, Kentucky, became a
prisoner in the Columbus, Ohio, penitentiary.
The North was again exultant but Mary Lin-
coln on her bed of pain could not be expected to
be cheerful. In spite of watchful precaution it
Mary Todd Lincoln 43
came to her that her brother, David, who had
been promoted from the prison pen at Richmond
to a command in Pemberton's army, was shot
through the lung and mortally wounded in the
siege of Vicksburg.
In August, and before she had recovered from
the accident, another shock came to her. In a
skirmish at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, her youngest
brother, Alexander, was killed.
Though an officer on the staif of General Ben
Harden Helm, he was only twenty-three, just a lit'
tie older than Mrs. Lincoln's own eldest son, Rob-
ert. In his babyhood, when the Lincolns visited
Kentucky, he had been the darling of her heart, her
loving, fiery red headed baby brother, Alex. Again
her distressed and sympathetic husband found it
difficult to comfort her.
September 19-20 occurred the battle of Chicka-
mauga — a disastrous Federal defeat and but for
the lion-hearted Thomas, 'The Rock of Chicka-
mauga," it would have been a total rout. Here
was a double blow; for Mrs. Lincoln was loyal to
At Chickamauga, General Ben Harden Helm
was killed — Helm, whom the President and his
wife had tried so zealously at the beginning of the
war to keep on the Union side. In her recent
book already referred to, Elizabeth Helm, Mrs.
Lincoln's niece, devotes a touching chapter to the
44 The Tragic Career of
circumstances connected with the death of Gen-
Like the wives of many southern generals, Emile
Todd Helm, followed the movements of her hus-
band, keeping near him as the strife wore on, and
thus, after Chickamauga, found herself beyond the
Union lines. General Helm lay buried at Atlanta
and she wished to return north to her children.
She secured a military pass, but at the frontier
was detained. The President was telegraphed,
asking what to do with her. Lincoln responded:
"Send her to me." When she reached the Execu-
tive Mansion there followed days of deep sorrow.
Not since the death of Willie had there been felt
such desolation. Day after day the two sisters
wept in silent embrace. Lincoln understood and
sympathised. Their emotion was too deep for vo-
With returning physical health, Mrs. Lincoln
busied herself in various ways to shake off the
many lesser emotional traumas. She visited the
hospitals, of which there were about thirty-five in
Washington by the summer of 1864. Although
naturally of a warm, sympathetic nature, she was
not of the disposition to feel lightly the resentment
against her that had developed among the soldiers
during Col. David Todd's incumbency as a rebel
Mary Lincoln was never a coward. Her "in-
Mary Todd Lincoln 45
herited instinct from her Indian'fighting ancestors
was ever fired at the prospect of battle." On that
fateful Sunday night after Bull Run in '61, when
McDowell's panic-stricken troops were surging
into the Capitol, expecting momentarily to be
overtaken by Beauregard's hosts, she was urged
by General Scott to flee. She did not budge —
declaring that where the President stayed she
Now again in July, 1864, when Early's thirty
thousand rebels were advancing through Maryland
on their fruitless mission to capture Washington,
she was urged to leave the city. Again she refused
to abandon the President and together they went
to the battle front.
On the 11th there was a brisk assault by the
rebels on Fort Stevens, one of the strong but poor'
ly garrisoned fortifications around Washington.
The Lincolns received a baptism of fire. Only a
few feet from where Lincoln stood a Federal sup
geon was killed.
From City Point, General Wright had arrived
with his division of veterans in the nick of time to
engage the enemy and save the situation. While
the battle was raging, General Wright walked up
to Lincoln and said: "Mr. President, you are the
Commander'in'Chief of the Army and Navy, but
I command on this field. You must get away
46 The Tragic Career of
Did it ever occur to you that Lincoln was the
only President that was ever under fire of an en-
emy army while in that office, to say nothing of a
President and his wife?
As Lincoln's first term was drawing to a close
he, of course, desired renomination. So did Mrs.
Lincoln. A political contest always brought her
to her feet. She was again cheered and gratified
by support from Lexington. And as four years
ago, Robert Breckenridge and the resolute Cas-
sius M. Clay both strenuously upheld Lincoln and
the Union. Breckenridge, aged but fiery, was made
temporary chairman of the National Union Con-
vention at Baltimore, June 6th. He was the most
striking figure in that assembly. He made one of
the most eloquent and patriotic addresses ever
made before a political convention. His fervid
logic and ringing eloquence brought the assembly
to its feet time after time. When the old patri-
arch closed his great keynote speech, all semblance
of doubt among the wavering delegates was dissi-
pated and Lincoln's renomination was assured.
The vicissitudes of that campaign were keenly
felt at the White House. Intense and bitter were
the personal and political slurs cast upon the Presi-
dent and Mrs. Lincoln. In the theatre of war the
rebels stubbornly held the inner lines. Early in
July a rebel army nearly captured the outposts of
Washington by the oft trodden Shenandoah trail.
Mary Todd Lincoln 47
Chambersburg was burned by McCausland
July 30th. Pennsylvania, the stronghold of Lin'
coin's support, was wavering. Her commercial
interests were jeopardized. This feeling was also
dominant in other northern centers of trade. New
York was deeply disgruntled, then as now always
alien to law and morals. "Her conscience choked
with cotton, her mouth kankered with gold," her
southern trade blighted, — why continue Lincoln's
foolish war? The foreign slave trade which had
been illicit since 1808, always nested in New
York, was at last obliterated by the blockade.
Here was a species of bootlegging alone aggregate
ing $17,000,000 a year, knocked into a cocked
hat. Indeed, New York was deeply aggrieved.
Why not capitulate to the slavocracy and have
The war was being declared a failure. PetU'
lent, disgruntled and intriguing politicians schemed
to maneuver Lincoln off the ticket. But before
the November elections the fates smiled on the
Administration. There were Federal victories.
Grant, the imperturbable, was tightening his
strangle hold on Lee at Richmond and Petersburg.
The intrepid Sherman had captured Atlanta, the
gateway to the South. The dashing Sheridan in
the Shenandoah Valley had ruthlessly closed the
back door to Washington against further inva'
sion. The Emancipation Proclamation had been
48 The Tragic Career of
assimilated into northern psychology. Moreover,
it had staggered the slave power and had forever
dispelled the possibility of foreign intervention.
Triumph for the Union forces was assured and
Father Abraham was sustained. With character-
istic Hoosier humor he "allowed, the people did
not care to trade horses while crossing the stream."
Mrs. Lincoln was to remain mistress of the Execu-
By March 4, 1865, the Navy had closed all the
Southern ports. The invincible Thomas had de-
stroyed Hood's rebel army at Nashville. Sher-
man had marched sixty thousand veterans, scarcely
molested, from Atlanta to the sea, and turning
northward toward Richmond, was carrying every-
thing before him. Well could his great antagonist,
General Joseph E. Johnston, declare: "Such an
army, such a commander, never trod the earth since
the days of Caeser." The end of the war was now
plainly in view.
Mary Todd Lincoln again sat on the improvised
platform at the east end of the Capitol. Chase
administered the oath. Taney had gone to his re-
ward. Both of these renowned Chief Justices had
given the President many vexations; Taney, with
his brilliant legal mind benumbed by slavocratic
domination; Chase, by intrigues while Secretary
of the Treasury, but the great, patient Lincoln had
mastered them both. Douglas was not present to
Mary Todd Lincoln 49
manifest his approval. But Mary Todd Lincoln,
if possible, was more in earnest with the affairs of
the Nation than ever. Her heart thrilled with
pride as the President, tall and gaunt, his features
rugged and earnest, rose to deliver his second in'
augural. Particularly did she exultantly acquiesce
in the closing words — so touching and so memor'
able: 'With malice toward none; with charity
for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us
to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work
we are in; to bind up the Nation's wounds; to
care for him who shall have borne the battle, and
for his widow, and his orphan — to do all which
may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace
among ourselves, and with all nations. "
Shortly after the inauguration, at Grant's invi'
tation, the Lincolns spent ten days at headquarters
of the Army of the Potomac. Their overstrained
minds needed relaxation. Especially did they need
to get away from the new influx of office seekers
which invaded every nook and cranny of the White
House. Their quarters were on the "River
Queen" which had conveyed them up the James
to City Point. Mrs. Lincoln rested and little Tad
had the time of his life.
Horace Porter in his sprightly volume, "Cam'
paigning With Grant," reminisces minutely of this
outing. Porter records some quixotic things which
Mrs. Lincoln did; but in the main it was a pleas'
50 The Tragic Career of
ant, restful vacation. There were headquarters
dinners. There were reviews of the army and in'
spections. On these occasions Tad on his pony,
his little military cloak flapping in the breeze, was
the busiest trooper of the cavalcade. The elements
of the ludicrous were not lacking. The towering
Lincoln, betopped with the familiar stove pipe
hat, bestrode the General-in-Chief's big bay
charger, "Cincinnati," while the stubby Grant
himself rode his little pony, "Jeff Davis." Had
these two riders exchanged mounts the situation
would have been as risible. And thus remarking,
the members of Grant's staff got much amusement
out of the Presidential sojourn.
One sunny afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln
were given a ride along the James. They came to
a wooded cemetery near the roadside. The Presi-
dent directed the driver to stop. They got out of
the carriage and strolled among the tombstones,
the clustering foliage and the leafing trees. 'The
world was lifting its bowed head from the long
bereavement of winter." The scene was one to
make the tired couple thoughtful. Mr. Lincoln
said tenderly to his wife: "Mary, you are younger
than I, you will outlive me. When I die I wish
you to bury me in a quiet wooded place like this."
To this simple request, a momentous sequel was
to occur only too soon.
On Saturday, April 1st, the River Queen
Mary Todd Lincoln 51
steamed back to Washington, Tad and his mother
and his pony on board, leaving the President be-
hind. Grant had urged him to stay a few days
longer and Stanton had seconded this request by a
kindly urgent telegram from the War Office. Lin-
coln decided to stay, declaring in spicy Hoosier
vernacular, he "had a sneaking notion that things
were going to happen. " And things did happen.
Lee was making a last desperate effort to shake off
the bull dog grip of Grant.
Saturday, April 1st, the pitched battle of Five
Forks — a resounding Union victory — marked the
beginning of the final Confederate debacle. Sun-
day, April 2nd, Richmond was evacuated and the
truculent Jeff Davis, with his Cabinet, were fugi-
tives, bag and baggage. The next day Lincoln
walked about the abandoned rebel capital before
returning to Washington.
After an exciting one hundred mile race to cor-
ral the fleeing army of Northern Virginia, attended
by contacts and skirmishes at Burkeville, Amelia
Court-house, Farmville, Jettersville, Sailor's Creek
and Curdsville, Lee was finally brought to bay
Sunday morning, April 9th, at Appomattox Court
House. That Sunday afternoon the famous sur-
render took place in the parlor of Wilmer Mc-
Lean's brick house across the single street from
the Court House. Here twenty-eight thousand
three hundred and fifty-six starving rebel prison-
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
52 The Tragic Career of
ers were fed and paroled. Johnson's army was
not to capitulate until April 26th, but hostile
ties were giving way to negotiations and the war
was virtually over. The Lincolns back in Wash-
ington were contemplating a surcease from the
terrible trials of the past four years. They were
trying to efface from their memories the crimson
annals from Sumpter to Appomattox. On that
last ride which they took on Good Friday, April
14th, they were mutual in their desire to ride
alone and blithely talked of better days to come.
Then came the great tragedy at Ford's Theatre!
Who shall comprehend the volume or fathom the
depth of suffering that overwhelmed the already
overwrought Mrs. Lincoln as she sat moaning all
night in the little front room of the Peterson house
across the street from Ford's?
Saturday morning, April 1 5, at twenty 'two min'
utes after seven o'clock, Lincoln expired. Between
the sobs and shrieks of the distracted woman, the
commiserating Stanton was heard to declare,
"Now he belongs to the Ages!" Some kind soul
might truly have uttered the same noble sentiment
in regard to Mary Todd Lincoln. It is hardly a
figure of speech to say that the bullet that sped on
its way to take the life of the President also took
the life of Mary Todd Lincoln. From that mc
ment, her submerged pathological mentality be'
Mary Todd Lincoln 53
"The shock of this great culminating blow shat-
tered the last of Mary Lincoln's reserve force,
already so weakened by former losses and repres-
sions. Her collapse was complete." Little Tad
never left her and in him she now centered all the
life and hope she had left.
In the long sad seventeen years that followed
there were exacerbations of complete mental aliena-
tion. They were to be years of abuse, anguish and
isolation. Mrs. Lincoln was physically and mental-
ly too sick to note the Nation's demonstration of
grief, or to attend the last funeral rites at Spring-
field in May.
"Even the shocking tragedy of her husband's
murder did not protect Mary Todd Lincoln from
situations in which she displayed herself at a dis-
advantage. When it was determined to convey
the body of Lincoln back to Springfield, a meeting
was held in that city." A committee was chosen
and a site was selected for his tomb.
The bizarre populace of that ambitious capital
had in mind a plaza of four city blocks, between
the west front of the old Capitol and the Alton
Railroad, where the new State House now stands.
What could be more enticing than a beautiful
monument in this public place in the very heart
of the city?
'The land was owned by a family named Ma-
ther, who agreed to sell it for the purpose. A
54 The Tragic Career of
vault was erected, men working day and night to
have it ready for occupancy when the body should
arrive it was later to be veneered with mar-
ble." But Mrs. Lincoln made emphatic protest
against interment at such a public place. Had
not her husband only a few weeks before in the
cemetery back on the James in Virginia said:
"Mary, you are younger than I. You will
outlive me. When I die I wish you to bury me
in some quiet wooded place/ ' Had she not pledged
her acquiescence to this emphatic request?
But scarcely anybody in Springfield could give
the sorrowing widow any credit for doing the
right thing. A bitter controversy ensued over
what was termed her obstinacy. She would not
allow the body to be placed in the partly finished
The Association consented that Lincoln's body
should be placed in the public receiving vault at
the beautiful new wooded Oak Ridge Cemetery, a
mile north of Springfield, but only as a temporary
necessity. The city was determined to bring Mrs.
Lincoln to her senses and proceeded with the work
of embellishing their prised structure, thinking she
would ultimately yield. But they were mistaken.
Mrs. Lincoln went to Chicago and took rooms
for herself, Robert and Tad, at the Tremont
June 5th, she wrote the Springfield Monument
Mary Todd Lincoln 55
Association that, unless within ten days she had
the positive pledge that the tomb and monument
should be at Oak Ridge, and not on the Mather
plaza, she would positively remove the body and
take it back to Washington, to be buried under
the dome of the Capitol in the empty tomb origin-
ally constructed for the body of Washington,
which was at her disposal.
"The Association determined not to yield to
her. It voted to send its President, Richard J.
Oglesby, and its Secretary, O. M. Hatch, to Chi'
cago. . . . Mrs. Lincoln learned through the papers
of the Committee's approach, and refused to see
them. Instead, she sent her son, Capt. Robert T.
Lincoln, to meet them at the train. He sent them
back to Springfield with a letter from her dated
June 10th, 1865, saying that five of her ten days
of grace had already gone, and unless she had
the positive pledge of the Association that her de-
mands were to be complied with, she would re-
move the body." The Committee, fearing legal
She had kept the pledge made to her husband
back in the secluded Virginia cemetery but this
did not add to her list of friends. It now became
the fashion to vocalize the pent up abuse always
in store for herself and Lincoln.
The erratic Herndon proceeded to prepare and
deliver throughout the state a bombastic lecture
56 The Tragic Career of
on Ann Rutledge which stung Mrs. Lincoln to
the quick. It was unfortunate that the first meet'
ing between Miss Todd and Billy Herndon back
in the early Springfield days ended in a lasting
disagreement between them. Otherwise the world
would never have heard much of the Ann Rut'
In congress Senator Sumner introduced the bill
to give Mrs. Lincoln a pension of $5,000 a year.
This brought on a nationwide controversy in both
the Forum and the newspapers. The Republicans
made a disgraceful political fight on the bill, which
was exceeded in contumely only by the Democrats
trying to profit from the affair. The bill was dc
feated. At the next session of Congress, Senator
Sumner again brought up his bill and again an
acrimonious debate followed. The stalwart old
senator from Massachusetts, his eyes suffused with
tears, made a gallant appeal to Congress and the
country to recognize the rights of the widow in
The bill, modified to $3,000, was finally passed
by a bare majority. Years afterward, when Mrs.
Lincoln's days were numbered, a pension bill of
$5,000 was passed in favor of Mrs. Garfield. An
amendment to the bill raised Mrs. Lincoln's pen"
sion to $5,000. But she did not live to enjoy the
benefit, for she died July 16, 1882.
After the election in 1864, anticipating another
Mary Todd Lincoln 57
term in official Washington, Mrs. Lincoln, though
usually frugal, had made in New York extensive
purchases of merchandise for home and personal
adornment. The avaricious New York shopkeep-
ers, true to form, had extended to her excessive
credit, but now from her suddenly restricted in'
come she could not meet the bills. They scandal'
ously published her delinquency and joined in the
chorus of denunciation.
To be brief, her debts were finally adjusted and
Mrs. Lincoln obsessed with a desire to travel, took
Tad abroad, returning in the spring of 1871. She
placed him in a school in London and the youth
progressed satisfactorily with his education.
On their journey home, Tad developed typhoid
fever and died in Chicago, July 15, 1871. Eleven
more dreary years of tragic sorrow awaited her.
The episode of Mrs. Lincoln's final mental col'
lapse, to which we now come, has been little un'
derstood and I must present it with the most un'
"In the winter of 18 74' 5, she was in Florida.
On March 12, 1875, she wired to the family phy-
sician, Dr. Ralph Isham, imploring him to save
Robert's life, telling him that she was taking a
train for Chicago. Robert was not sick, and he
and Dr. Isham met her at the train. 11
"She was shocked and overjoyed in finding Rob'
ert alive and well, and soon grew cheerful and ani'
58 The Tragic Career of
mated. " She talked pleasantly concerning her win-
ter in Florida except for a fancied attempt made
to poison her at Jacksonville, at which place she
bought a cup of coffee and was confident that it
contained poison. She went to the Grand Pacific
Hotel and insisted that Robert should remain with
"Robert remained in the hotel that night and
subsequent nights, sleeping in the room next to
that of his mother. Every night, and several times
a night, she would rap at his door, and tell him
she was in danger. Sometimes he had to finish
the night sleeping on a lounge in her room; some-
times she came in with him, and he gave her his
bed and got what sleep he could on a couch. She
wore him out, and did much the same for the
chambermaids and other people in the hotel. An
Indian, she said, was pulling wires out of her
brain. The doctors were taking steel springs out
of her head. People were trying to murder her."
"The manager of the hotel and all who had to
do with her became apprehensive, and wished for
her removal to some more suitable place."
"At length Robert felt compelled to apply to
the County Court of Chicago to have her declared
insane. No little care was taken to hide the rec-
ords. When Mr. William E. Barton, in recent
years, instituted a search for them, the oldest
clerks in the office declared that such papers did
Mary Todd Lincoln 59
not exist; subsequent investigation, however, re-
vealed them. Mr. Barton was one of the first per'
sons to see these papers after they were carefully
hidden away without docket number. "
"So far as records show, the sad thing was done
as decently and with as much dignity as possible.
Robert's lawyer was Leonard Swett, and Mary
Lincoln's was Isaac N. Arnold — old friends of
the Lincolns. Judge Wallace was on the bench.
The complaining witness was, unfortunately but
of necessity, the son, Robert. The jury was com'
posed of twelve as prominent men as Chicago had
at that time, including such men as Lyman J. Gage
and Chas. B. Far well."
"Mary Lincoln was found insane and a fit sub'
ject for confinement in one of the State Hospitals
for the Insane in the state of Illinois. She was
not taken to a State Hospital, however, but to a
private asylum at Batavia."
'The date of Mrs. Lincoln's first trial in which
she was declared insane was May 19, 1875. She
was in the sanitarium not quite thirteen months,"
after which she was brought into court and dc
clared sane. That she was insane when commit'
ted to Batavia admits of no doubt. That she was
sane when released is conjectural.
Again Mary Lincoln went abroad. She had
become estranged from Robert. Part of the time
he did not know her address. December, 1879, in
60 The Tragic Career of
Frankfort, Germany, she suffered a severe injury
to her spine by a fall from a step'ladder.
With great difficulty she reached the home land.
Across the Atlantic she was aboard the Amerique.
On the same ship was Sarah Bernhardt, her man'
ager and her troupe. An issue of the New York
Sun in October, 1880, tells the story of how indif'
ferently Mary Lincoln, who had been almost a
queen, was received in her own country, — how
she was touched on the shoulder by the police
and told to stand back with the crowd while the
divine Sarah was cheered to the echo and carried
away triumphantly in Manager Abbey's carriage.
That simple newspaper story should have stirred
a national sense of shame. Sarah Bernhardt, never
in all her career upon the stage, played so tragic
a role as Mary Todd performed on that day.
Mrs. Lincoln tarried in New York and con'
suited Dr. Lewis A. Sayre, the eminent orthope'
die surgeon. She felt improved and proceeded to
Springfield to the home of her sister, Mrs. Ed'
wards. It was the home in which she had first
met Abraham Lincoln, the home in which they
were married. She did not move among her old
friends. She shut herself in her room, and hid
herself as much as possible from her own kindred.
She shut every window, and pulled down every
shade. To the few friends who called on her she
talked of the virtues of Abraham Lincoln.
Mary Todd Lincoln 61
"Especially did she remember and repeat the
story of their last ride together, the afternoon of
the assassination. Their happy daydream then
was of a trip to the Pacific Coast to see the min-
ing of the gold that was to pay the national debt."
She talked about the last words that fell from his
lips that night in the box at Ford's Theatre when
he expressed an animated desire for a trip to the
Holy Land. Let us be thankful that she had this
memory to brighten the horizon when her sun had
gone down. When her stricken mind was at the
nadir of melancholy, she talked of the stroll in the
wooded cemetery back on the James in Virginia
and the promise she had given to Lincoln. She
talked of the shameful attack made on her by her
old friends because she would not allow the Presi'
dent's body to be entombed in the noisy barren
plaza, with the Alton trains rattling by night and
Robert T. Lincoln had not met his mother on
the pier in New York. She had not forgiven him
for sending her to the hospital. But after she had
returned to Springfield, Mr. and Mrs. Robert T.
Lincoln went down from Chicago and visited her
in the old Edwards home. She sat in her deep
mourning dress as they entered.
They laid in her lap a baby, saying, "We have
brought to you your granddaughter and name-
sake, Mary Lincoln." She hugged the baby to
62 Mary Todd Lincoln
her heart with maternal joy, and Robert was for'
"So much, at least, it is good to know, that she
did not die unreconciled to her eldest and only
The time has arrived when this noble woman
should come into her own in American history.
Her integrity of character, her intellectual endow
ments, her patriotism, her loyalty to Abraham
Lincoln and to the government during its greatest
crisis, should immunize her from venomous biogra'
phical fakers. In all the great affairs of their com'
mon life, Abraham Lincoln and his wife stood to"
gether — not shoulder to shoulder — for he was fif'
teen inches taller than she — but heart to heart.
"It may have been that gentle Ann Rutledge, or
portly, complacent Mary Owens, or youthful,
light-hearted Sarah Rickard could have endowed
the tall Sycamore of the Sangamon with a richer
measure of marital bliss, but never did a young
wife bring to a husband, interested in statecraft
and anxious for preferment, such wealth of first-
hand information on a grave, moral and political
subject — such fruits of intimate association with
great public men of her day as did Mary Todd to
Abraham Lincoln' ' — the greatest American of
I AM A MAN AND EVERYTHING HUMAN
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